In this youth-obsessed culture, seniors are too often depicted as dependent and past their prime, sidelined to make way for the shiny and new. Design Academy Eindhoven student Yoni Lefevre set out to challenge such prejudice through grandchildren’s hilarious, fantastical drawings of their grandparents.
“We’re living in an aging society, and especially in the Netherlands, the news is very negative about it,” Lefevre tells Co.Design. “I once read that 90% of the time the elderly are in the news they’re depicted as pathetic, lonely,” she says. “But there is a growing group of seniors who don’t fit this profile. I want to give these people a voice and show that aging is still a positive thing.”
Lefevre asked four children, ages 10 and 11, to draw pictures of their grandparents. The crayon and colored pencil compositions reveal their subjects as veritable superheroes, far from shriveled up. She then enlisted seniors, pedicure clients of her mother’s, to stage the grandkids’ drawings as photographs, with magnificently funny and touching results.
“Children have this very honest image of their grandparents,” says Lefevre. “They see them as people who still can do something and are valuable in their lives.”
Anne, 10, drew her grandfather with 10 amazing octopus-like arms. He’s playing soccer, fishing, raking, ironing, and feeding his pets all at the same time! For the re-enactment, Mr. DeRooy, 68, donned a red costume based on the drawing and was photographed in his living room, in all his many-limbed (four arms, two legs) glory.
The “Grey Power” sentiment has been a popular one of late. In the U.S., the “Grandparents Gone Wired” campaign, a partnership with DoSomething.org, recently rallied 13- to 25-year-olds to give tech lessons to nearly 3,000 Internet-illiterate seniors, allowing them to better connect with their loved ones and to stay current.
Lefevre’s pictures combat ageism through humor and humanize their subjects through children’s eyes. “With this new image I hope to contribute to a more colorful and positive perspective on aging,” she says. She may also be giving the seniors something to pin, post, or tweet out there.